Today, Plex is releasing an entirely redesigned mobile experience on iOS and Android. The new apps offer improved navigation and full control over how your movies, TV shows, music, photos, and, now, podcasts(!) are organized on the most personal of personal devices that you own. I’ve been testing a pre-release version of the iOS app and podcast service for a few days, and let me tell you, these changes are welcome.
First, podcasts. Plex podcast support is basic right now. You can do all the stuff you’d expect, including search and subscribe to your favorite shows, discover new podcasts through Plex’s recommendation engine, skip forward and back a few seconds during playback, and play your shows at unnatural speeds if you’re a monster. But Plex’s implementation lacks offline syncing and timers, both of which Plex tells me are “coming soon,” as is OPML importing for you super nerds.
Overall, the podcast experience has been rather glitchy. I’ve frequently seen error messages like “couldn’t retrieve the play queue” when trying to play an episode. And some podcasts, like Tomorrow with Joshua Topolsky and Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, couldn’t be found when searching. In fact, about 20 percent of the tech- and media-heavy podcasts I searched for couldn’t be found. Fortunately, Plex lets you subscribe via URL if search fails. To be clear, the podcast service I tested was in beta, and it will still be in beta when going live today. Fortunately, Plex has a good history of rolling beta experiences into rock-solid services over time, so let’s see where this goes in the weeks and months ahead.
Otherwise, the personalization updates really do improve the overall Plex media experience. My home screen now perfectly mirrors how I use Plex on my iPhone, which is primarily at the gym where I frequently watch TV shows and listen to podcasts. I was able to remove Plex’s default categories from the home screen and replace them with the “On Deck” category for unplayed podcasts, the “Continue watching” category to continue viewing the last video played on my Apple TV at home, and “Recently added TV” to see my recent Plex DVR recordings. And when I needed to dig deeper into my media, the new tabbed interface along the bottom let me quickly jump to my Movies, Shows, and Podcasts, while pushing things I used less frequently under the “More” tab. But clicking on those tabs was rare because I never had to leave my personalized home screen during regular use.
Overall, the addition of podcast support and new personalization features to the iOS and Android apps feels long overdue. Look for them to pop in their respective stores soon.